reliving moments through music, or: justifying my obsession with depressing Trent Reznor lyrics

Every person is different when it comes to evoking powerful memories. For some it is pictures, or sounds, or smells. Perhpas it is a combination of all those things. We all have something that triggers the snapshots that exist in our head. Moments in time that are embedded in our mind, sometimes forgotten and then dredged up again by a flash of of memory that triggers our senses. A whole scenario can come flooding back as if it happened only yesterday. Your senses transport you to wherever the memory came from and you ride it again, whether you want to or not.

Different senses trigger different things for me. The feel of the silk at the edge of a baby blanket can make me well up with the emotion I felt when I holding my children as infants. The smell of cool rain hitting summer scorched asphalt brings me to certain childhood days, standing at the window with my mother watching a storm come crashing through. They are vague memories; more of a feeling or series of moments.

There is nothing like music, at least for me, to bring back specific moments in my life. One note from a certain song and I am in a time machine. When I hear the old doo-wop song "In the Still of the Night," I am in my parents backyard, about eight years old, wearing a yellow tank top and tan cotton shorts. It's early evening and my parents have company over. They are scattered around the yard, sipping exotic drinks with fancy stirrers and smoking long cigarettes. I can smell the sweetness of the drinks, the smoke from someone's cigar, the chlorine in the pool. There are fireflies flitting around the yard, and I'm running after them with another girl, the daughter of one of my parent's guests. She smells of coconut suntan lotion and the beach. The radio, a litle am/fm portable with a bent antenna is tuned to a 50's "oldies but goodies" program. The DJ announces the next song. "And now, here's The Five Satins with In The Still of The Night."

shoo do- shooby doo shoo do- shooby doo

The girl and I stop chasing fireflies. We stare at the grownups. They are all singing along, the women and the men with their funny drinks and half-drunk voices and some men are singing louder than the others and some of the women are giggling.

In the still, still of the night I held you, held you tight

They are swaying and crooning and it's almost embarassing, yet something about it is giving me goosebumps. My mom and dad are holding each other and dancing, and a lot of the other couples have started dancing and the men are all singing to their wives. They sing off key, their voices full of beer. But it's oddly sweet and I stare at them for a minute before the girl I am playing with pokes me in the side and starts giggling.

Now every time I hear that song, I am in that place.

It's not always a good place that music brings you to, and as much as I have songs that bring me to sweet childhood memories, there are songs that can rip my heart out as if the pain was fresh and raw.

my favorite dreams of you still wash ashore

scraping through my head 'til i don't want to sleep anymore

I torture myself by listening to Nine Inch Nails on a daily basis. I love the music, I love the words, but I cannot escape the searing pain it brings me. For me, NIN romanticizes the world of depression. The darkness and emptiness and utter despair becomes something you crave. At times you want to be there, you want to feel that stabbing ache in your heart because feeling that is better than feeling nothing at all.

you make this all go away

you make this all go away

i'm down to just one thing and i'm starting to scare myself

I listen to this and I am in my car, driving aimlessly, choking on tears. There were markers in the back seat and someone left the cover off the blue one and now the whole car smells like painted alcohol. I'm smoking, chain smoking, and the only thing I can taste is the burning in my throat from the crying and the cigarettes and toll that sleeplessness takes on your body.

It's spring and maybe it's close to Easter because there were jelly beans in the ashtray. The air is warm and a little damp, it's going to rain soon and I'm thinking that rain would be good. I would drive to the park and sit there in the rain and wallow in my misery. Because my misery is all that I have.

i just want something

i just want something i can never have

I choke on these words and pull into the parking lot of the park. I sit in the car, the music still on, the sky still grey and threatening, some stray ducks walking around my car looking for food. I sit there and don't move. There is no one else around. I sit there and listen and feel the darkness eating up my soul and the pain - real physical pain - working it's way through my veins and into my heart. I am alone. I change the song, but it doesn't matter. It's all the same anyhow.

if I could start again

a million miles away

I would keep myself

I would find a way

The rain starts, little drops knockin on the windshield at first and then harder and harder until the ducks and the lake and the park itself have all but disappeared. At that moment my world consists of wetness and darkness and a feeling of being washed out, washed away, swept down the river.

So why do I still listen to it? Why do I sit here and listen to songs that take me back into the car and that mindset and the tears that come with it? The pain is there as if it's new. The tears are fresh. I can smell the markers and the jelly beans and taste the acrid smoke in my throat. I'm sitting here at my computer, years and years later, a new person with a new life and so far removed from that pain that I forget all about it sometimes.

And maybe that's why I do it. Maybe that's why I listen and cry and bring myself back there. As much as you don't want to forget your good sweet memories with their lighthearted feelings, you don't want to forget the despair, either. It is, after all, what made me stronger. It is what got me here. You do not know what soaring to new heights feels like unless you have swam in the murk. And that's why I listen and go back. To make sure I never take this place I am in now for granted.